London hopes Olympic Park will have new lease of life after the Games
Work is under way to save park from becoming a symbol of failed ambitionConstruction workers are back on site at London’s Olympic Park in Stratford, 1,000 of them, as they prepare for life after last summer’s weeks of excitement during the Olympics and Paralympics, when hundreds of thousands daily passed through its gates.
Reminiscent of Rosetti’s Christmas carol In the Bleak Mid-Winter, Stratford, open to eastern winds, was a place yesterday where “frosty winds moaned, earth stood hard as iron” and the waters of the river Lea were stilled by heavy ice-packs.
So far, the basketball court, minus its “blister-pack” skin, the polo ground and the hockey arena have been removed, while thousands of seats that flanked the aquatic centre on two sides have been removed, most for a new life at a race track in Miami.
Large tracts of the ground have been dug up, where foundations are being laid for new cafes, a world-class children’s playground and other projects are under way. “You’ll see more of it once the ice melts,” joked London Legacy Development Corporation’s Peter Tudor.
For now, London is battling to ensure that, unlike previous Olympic sites, the renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will have a life afterwards, rather than become another testament to failed ambition.
“There is no chance that this will be like Athens, there is no chance that there will be tumbleweed,” said Dennis Hone, the corporation’s chief executive, “The park will begin to reopen from July this year and will be fully open in Spring 2014.
The warm-up track used by athletes such as Usain Bolt and Mo Farah has been lost to Crossrail – the rail project that will eventually link Stratford underground with Heathrow on the western side of the city. But a new one will be built, while athletes will be back in time for July 27th when the British Athletics Grand Prix will open on the anniversary of the Games, while badminton’s London Grand Prix will be held in October.
Negotiations about the future of the stadium are still under way, though the original plan to cut it down to a 25,000-seater will be dropped if a deal can be struck with West Ham, who are the preferred bidder.
If so, it will hold 60,000, though retractable seating will have to be put in and the roof extended to give cover from the rain, so that it may exist both as the home for the Premier League side and British athletics.
Kitchens are being installed in the 3,000 apartments in the athletes’ village – unnecessary during the
Games because everyone ate in the restaurants – in time for the first permanent residents to move in later this summer.
Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 more homes will be built in the so-called East Village, including 1,400 affordable homes, while 4,000 more trees and 100,000 shrubs will start to be planted once the bleak mid-winter has passed.